This past semester, I took a multimedia journalism class where my final project included an audio recording. I chose to record mine about the differences I encountered in England during my study abroad. I based my recording largely on the differences I discussed in this blog post and also include a few points I made in this one.
One of the reasons that I have not posted in a while is because I’m dealing with reverse culture shock.
What is reverse culture shock? And how is it different from culture shock?
Reverse culture shock is when you experience a sense of disorientation and even sadness or depression when returning to your home country after an extended period of being away. Whereas culture shock is a feeling of homesickness when you first move away from home to a place with a different culture than what you are used to. You do not need to experience culture shock to experience reverse culture shock, and vice versa.
When I studied abroad in England, I did not experience culture shock. Instead, I was excited to embrace a new culture and jumped right into it. And I think that’s what made my reverse culture shock hit so hard.
I have nothing tying me down in Pennsylvania, where I have been stuck my entire life besides the four months I spent abroad and when I have taken on short vacations to other states. I am not really close with my family, who basically all live within 20 minutes of each other, and my only friends in the state are those at university. My best friend from high school lives in Florida now and only visits a few weeks throughout the year, and all my friends from study abroad live in either different states or different countries.
I made friends my first day in Sunderland, which was surprising because it took me a few months to make the friends I have at East Stroudsburg. Yet, I became closer with my study abroad friends in those short four months than I have with my university friends that I have had for almost three years.
Making these friends, along with all the memories we created together, and seeing how close we became, made it tough to leave them and come back to a place where I have close friends, but not as close as I need them to be.
I still keep in touch with my British friends, Sunderland Dance Squad, my flatmates and other people I met during my travels. And this has helped me transition back to life in the States, but it also makes me sad because we are so far away now.
I have been back in the States for a little over two months now and I am dealing with being back better than last month. But, it is still difficult. Especially because I can no longer call the house I grew up in or ESU “home” without getting a weird feeling because these places have never felt like home as much as England or Scotland (for the five days I spent there) has. And I honestly think it is because of the friends I have made and the welcoming atmosphere of the people and their culture.
I know I will not be able to live in Pa. much longer and feel happy. I am not even sure if I can live in America, even though I have not seen enough of this country to know if there are other cities here that will make me feel as welcome as the UK.
I know I am young, but I am also going to graduate university next year. I do not want to be stuck here for longer than I need to. So, this summer I am hoping to get my driver’s license and a car, which will make me even more broke than I am now. If it was up to me, I would have had my license five years ago because not being able to drive in this country has only made me feel more stuck, but I have had difficult times trying to find someone to teach me who will keep their word.
Once I can drive, I want to apply for a better job so I can afford car insurance and eventually to move out. Right now my choice in jobs is limited because I have to rely on other people to get me there, and can only work when their schedules are free to take me to work.
Hopefully everything works out. I am trying not to stress so much about being broke right now because I know I will be even more broke in a few months.
I promise my next post will have a happier note than this one! I will be talking about camping!
Meanwhile, if anyone has any culture shock or reverse culture shock tips, please share!
While studying abroad in England, I learned a lot about English culture. But, by learning about another culture, I realized I was also learning about my own. Based on this post, here is what I learned about America:
Food inferiority: The first time I ordered cheesy “chips” in England, I expected the typical, synthetic nacho cheese you get with fries in the States. Fortunately, I was wrong. The cheese was real! On top of this surprise, once I ordered, the takeaway worker fried the chips right then instead of having them pre-fried and cold by the time I got served, like at most American take out restaurants. I also acquired a taste for garlic sauce, which goes great with cheesy chips… Although one of my British friends swears otherwise. Unfortunately, garlic sauce is hard to find past Northern England. I could barely find it in London, nevermind America.
Intersections vs roundabouts: One of the first differences I noticed about the roads in England, besides driving on the opposite side, was the abundance of roundabouts and unnecessary winding crosswalks. At first I did not understand why they barely have any intersections in England, until one of my British classmates explained how little land there is in Europe compared to America, and that roundabouts save more space than intersections. I still do not understand why a lot of the crosswalks wind through traffic, though. I think they would be much easier to maneuver if they were straight. But maybe because they rely so much on roundabouts in Europe, they do not understand the practicality of a straight crosswalk.
Drinking culture: First, you are legal to drink at 18 in most of Europe and 21 in America. Second, you are supposed to get carded if you look under 25 in most of Europe and under approximately 40 in America. Third, when buying alcohol or entering a club, people are a lot more relaxed about drinking than in America. Fourth, the British party harder than any American I have ever seen.
Money: Besides the obvious currency difference that American money is plain old green compared to the colorful British Pound or Euro notes, I had not realized another major difference: Americans name their coins. Even after living my life calling coins by “penny,” “dime,” “nickle” and “quarter,” I never noticed we gave them specific names, whereas British coins are all “pence” and Euro coins are all “cents” no matter the amount, until I met an English student who studied abroad in America. He told me the hardest adjustment for him was trying to remember which coin was called what. Also, British money has eight coins, while American money only has four. This is because British one and two pounds are coins, not notes, and then their pence run in one, two, five, 10, 20, and 50 coins. As useless as Americans may find the penny, the two pence coin feels even more useless to the British.
Sheep: So many sheep in Britain. On the motorway, I have passed fields and fields of sheep. The sheep were my first surprise when I arrived in England. Even landing in the country, I saw white dots on fields from the air and I had no clue what they were until I took the bus to my university. My fellow American students and I were in awe over the sheep, which confused many of our British friends until we told them we do not have that many sheep where we are from in America.
Pedestrian streets: I love pedestrian areas! I think they encourage healthier living by requiring people to walk in certain areas. When I arrived back in the States, I went shopping with my mom, and she parked in one lot. Then, when we were on our way to get food after, she went to get back in the car while I wanted to walk to the restaurant, which was right across the street. I tried to convince her to walk, but she was too stubborn to change her way of life because she is so used to driving everywhere, even when it is right across the street.
Sales tax: The first time I went to Poundland, which sells everything for a pound, I expected to pay more than a pound. Like how we pay more than a dollar at the dollar stores because of sales tax. I received another pleasant surprise when the total was a whole number. I later learned this is because sales tax is already worked into the sales price before you buy something, and not added as extra at the register.
The alphabet: Ok, so I knew Z is pronounced “zed” in Europe, but what I was not prepared for was H being pronounced “haych.” Growing up in America, whenever a child said “haich,” they were scolded and told to stop pronouncing the letter “aych” the wrong way. Little did those kindergarten teachers know, almost everywhere else pronounces H “the wrong way.”
Any other differences I missed?
P.S. I’m a finalist in the ISEP Study Abroad photo contest! Like/share my photo here to help me win fan favorite! Spread the word to friends and family, too! Voting ends 23 February.
Thanks a lot!
Up next: my experience with reverse culture shock and other updates.
I spent my final days in England in disbelief thanks to live theatre on London’s West End. For the four days I spent in London, I saw a West End show each day.
I saw “Lion King,” “Wicked,” “Matilda” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” Each show left me more in awe than the last, reminding me why I love theatre so much:
“Lion King”: I swear the opening number, “Circle of Life,” reached into my soul. I felt a connection with the world through the cast’s vocals and movement. When something reaches that deep, it is hard not to tear up. After the show, I met Young Simba and Young Nala at the stage door.
“Wicked”: I decided to see “Wicked” after I did not win the “Book of Mormon” lottery. I went to a last minute ticket sales booth and this show just so happened to be the cheapest. I was pretty bummed that I could not see “Book of Mormon,” but “Wicked” was worth it because:
I knew most of the music, so it was easy to follow along and enjoy the music.
It forever changes the way I look at “Wizard of Oz” by tying together origin stories of every major character. I could barely believe how seamlessly the origins were incorporated. They left me sad, but fulfilled
“Matilda”: I bought a £5 ticket for “Matilda” by showing up to the theatre early. The box office holds 16 tickets for 16-25 year olds for each performance. And since I only saw the first half last time because I booked a Warner Brothers tour, I knew I had to redeem myself and see the rest of the show. I was once again in awe over the alphabet song and the trust the actors put in others to keep them from falling.
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”: I love Harry Potter, so this play held a special place in my heart before the script was even released. When I read the script, I thought I loved Scorpius Malfoy. But when I watched the play on stage, I decided I absolutely adore Scorpius Malfoy. On his first line, my initial thought was “ugh, this kid is going to be annoying.” But as the show continued, my adoration for Scorpius grew so much that it is hard to describe to those who have not seen the play. In between parts one and two, I met the actors playing Ron and Draco, then after part two, I met a few more at stage door, including the actors playing Scorpius, Albus and Hagrid.
Do you have a favorite West End or Broadway show? Or a show that you have been dying to see? Share your thoughts!
Up next: my final days in England and what I learned while studying abroad.
I do not know what I expected when I decided to visit Greece, but I know I was not expecting the breathtaking views and monumental sites that I saw.
I arrived late at night, like I have for most of my trips, and did some late night exploring. Mostly I was on the hunt for food. I found a cheap gyro shop and discovered I am not a fan of eating lamb. I also discovered that either I had no clue how to eat the massive sandwhich or it was meant to be really messy.
On my first full day in Athens, I visited the Acropolis and the surrounding areas. I was a little upset that there was construction on the famous side of the Parthenon, but I got over it considering how much there is to see. Besides the Parthenon, the Acropolis includes temples to Athena and Artemis, the Erechtheion, the theatre of Dionysus and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Oh, and plenty of cats! The surrounding area includes the Agorra, which was a market place in ancient times, a modern market place selling souvenirs and a rock to climb for views of both the Acropolis and Athens.
I took a day cruise to three of the Saronic islands, the islands closest to Athens, on the next day. The ones I visited are Hydra, Poros and Aegina. On the boat, I met a girl named Michelle who became my buddy while exploring the islands.
Hydra was by far the prettiest of the three islands. We just explored the town and enjoyed the views of the Mediterranean Sea, but that was all we really needed to do to know how majestic the island is. We saw a lot more cats, too. One came up to me and started rubbing against my leg and then followed us for a little while. The cats are really friendly and well cared for. There are even cat stations around that have food and blankets for them. On the top of a hill, we came face to face with a donkey and some chickens. The donkey was asleep at first, but once we got closer to the chickens he woke up and looked really defensive.
Poros was similar to Hydra, but smaller. We went to a clock tower and saw some nice views, then bought some baklava and ate it by the sea.
Aegina is the largest of the three islands we visited. We went to a monestary and bought some pistachios, which Aegina is known for. We visited the Temple of Apollo at sunset, which was a really nice sight. On the boat ride back, we enjoyed traditional Greek dancing and even learned a few dances ourselves.
After watching the sunrise on the rock near the Acropolis, I took a day trip to Delphi, where the Oracle of Apollo was. The tour guide was the nicest and most knowledgeable I have had yet; she was really sweet. We visited a museum and the Sanctuary of Apollo, which includes the Oracle, a treasury and the Theatre of Apollo.
It was really snowy and icy the day that I went, so the tour guide said the theatre might be closed. But to my delight, it was open and I got to stand on the stage that actors performed on millennias ago; unlike the Odeon and Theatre of Dionysus at the Acropolis, which could only be looked at. On the way to the theatre, a cat with one pupil bigger than the other approached me and meowed at me while standing on his hind legs. I tried to move, but he moved to block my path again. I am still unsure why he took such interest in me.
We took a short stop in a little town nearby and had a four course lunch at a quaint restaurant. The lunch was delicious, but difficult to finish because most of us were full by the end of the second course.
I visited the Archeological Museum and Acropolis Museum on my last day in Athens, and watched the changing of the guards at Syntagma Square with Michelle. Both museums were filled with unbelievably well preserved ancient finds. The changing of the gaurds was interesting because of how the gaurds kicked their legs and flicked their ankles before each step like a dance.
After New Year’s I took a train to Paris for a few days. I went to local pubs, walked around the beautiful city, attended a ballet and visited the Louvre.
I arrived in the city around noon and decided to walk around. All the streets and buildings look almost identical with only slight differences, and this means all the streets are so pretty.
As I was walking, I passed an opera house. I wanted to see an opera for a while since coming to Europe, but all they had on was a ballet. So, naturally, I bought a ticket for the ballet.
That night, I went to a pub with a Scottish friend I made at my hostel. It was open mic night and she performed such deep music about finding yourself, but with a folk-like style.
The next day, I visited the Arc de Triomph and Eiffel Tower after a free walking tour. Then it was time for the ballet. It was a Dresden ballet at Palais Garnier and it was the craziest ballet I have ever seen. It included characters speaking French and English, and a closing act that left me feeling like I was in another dimension.
My final day, I visited the Louvre. Usually the first thing visitors do at this museum is see the Mona Lisa. But I was more interested in the Egyptian and sculpture sections since Mona Lisa is too dark and unattractive of a painting for me.
After I visited the sections I wanted to first, I figured why not find the Mona Lisa. That was when I realized I was lost. I knew I had to be on the other side of the museum and I could see the area I had to be in when I looked out the window, but had no clue how to get there. I ended up walking around sections I already saw until I noticed the usual five to ten people in each section I was in so far multiplied to over 100 people in a room. Then I knew I must be close to DaVinci’s famous painting before even seeing the sign pointing which way to go.
I was told not to be disappointed about the size of the painting since most people expect it to be larger. But I thought Mona Lisa was normal size, as paintings go. I was more disappointed in the fact that I could not really see it. The barrier bewteen the crowd and the artwork kept us o far away from it that the details were not visible.
I did not spend as much time in Paris as I would have liked since I did not have the chance to visit the catacombs or the Montmartre district. But overall I enjoyed the sights I did get to see and even made a few new friends.
Up next: My trips to Greece and Germany, and my final days in England… For now.
Before my flight to Brussels, Belgium on New Year’s Eve, I was getting super excited because I would be celebrating with my friend/study abroad flatmate Dara. Our flights were scheduled to land 15 minutes away from each other, so we planned to meet in the airport. Well… Turns out Brussels has two airports and we each flew into a different one.
After the initial confusion of trying to find each other at arrivals in our opposite airports, we finally met midway at a train station. We talked over lunch about our travel adventures after we last saw each other in England. It was refreshing catching up and speaking freely in English after being surrounded by mostly Spanish speakers in Barcelona.
I realize that through solo travel I meet so many new and interesting people. Although most Europeans speak English, it is not always their first language, so I find myself going mute sometimes as not to reveal that I am a foreigner. I wish I could speak every language, that is my top pick for a superpower.
On New Year’s Eve, we took part in the Brussels Pub Crawl. We lost the group early on, but so did everyone else on the crawl. Our big group ended much smaller by the end of the night, but I still had fun.
Dara and I ran outside as the countdown came close to midnight. The festivities reminded me of New York’s celebration, but on a much smaller scale and without a ball drop or fireworks. Instead we had the countdown clock in the middle of the square, giant puppets made of lights and confetti raining down. I was so happy in that moment; celebrating in the middle of the Belgian festivities was a nice change from my usual sitting around my aunt’s house and watching festivities on TV. Being part of a public celebratory atmosphere is something I think everyone should experience at least once.
The next day I slept a lot. I slept so much I think I made myself even more sleepy. I finally got out of bed at around 4 p.m. Rodrigo, a local I met on the pub crawl, showed me and Dara around some local pubs. One was death themed, but it was cooler than you would think. There were coffins for tables, fake bats on the ceiling and skeletons on the walls. Another had beer brands from around the world all over the ceiling and a bottles covering an entire wall.
At the death themed pub, Rodrigo, originally from Brazil, overheard the people next to us speaking Portuguese and struck up a conversation. Since he speaks mainly French and Portuguese, with a little English, our communication was a bit difficult but we managed well enough. Of course not including the time it took about half an hour to explain getting to a train station. The other Brazilains joined us, and it was nice having more cool people to hang out with and translate each other’s sentences.
Dara and I then took a train to Gent, Belgium for our final day in the country. Gent has colourful street art, sparkling canals and cozy shops. We tried Belgian waffles for the first time and they are so much more fluffier than any other waffles I have had before! We walked around the town and visited the holiday market, where we ate some more waffles. This time I had one with chocolate on top.
At the end of the day, we returned to Brussels to pack for our next journeys and sleep. Dara was headed back to the States, and my next destination was France. I woke up for my early train the next day, gave Dara a “see you soon” hug and off I went. I did not say goodbye because we have become so close over the past few months that I know we will find a way to meet up again.
And that is what I like to do with all the people I have met and places I have visited; leave not with a “goodbye,” but with a “see you soon.”
Up next: Paris, Athens and another trip to London before I travel back to Sunderland and the States.